JACKSONVILLE – Rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence didn't waste any time this summer.
The most anticipated player to arrive in Jacksonville in decades left town in June following the offseason program. He returned to Clemson, but he didn't go alone.
Wide receivers Marvin Jones Jr., DJ Chark Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr. wanted to help jump start the new offense by creating chemistry on their own. A video which was widely distributed through the social media world showed the crew working under the summer sun, then playing at Lawrence's lake house.
"It was work, work, work," Shenault said Wednesday following Day 7 practice of Jaguars 2021 Training Camp at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex. "We had some fun, too. Marvin likes to have fun and me and DJ like to have fun. I think that's what it's all about – having fun while you're getting your work done."
The chemistry was evident on the video and there are plenty of examples to support it from the first seven practice days of camp. It doesn't always go as smoothly as it appears it is going in Jacksonville this summer. Shenault points his finger in Jones' direction and – like Chark – extolls the virtue of a man who has played in the NFL for a decade now.
"He's definitely a mentor, but he's also still a great player going into his 10th year," Shenault said of Jones. "He's letting us know the little things, the types of things you want to add to your game. He also knows the offense very well and he's helping in every little way possible.
"I'm just ready to get on the field next to him."
Jaguars Head Coach Urban Meyer understands how critical the chemistry is for his young quarterback and for his offense.
"He's always in the receivers' room," Shenault said of Meyer. "He's electrifying – and at the end of the day, he wants to make sure he's getting every drop out of us. Even though we just finished with this workday he's getting us ready for the next workday.
"He's always on us and trust me, we're putting the work in."
The Jaguars' defense expects to be better against the run in 2021. Meyer and General Manager Trent Baalke this offseason attacked the spot, which has been a weakness since defensive tackle Marcell Dareus went down with an injury in Cincinnati in 2018. Last season the club allowed 4.7 yards per carry, 153 yards per game and gave up more than 200 yards to their opponent a franchise record four times in a single season. Defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot, entering his fifth season with the Jaguars, understands what needs to change. "We're bringing a big emphasis against the run, and I feel like we're going to stop the run," Smoot said. "We've got the people to do it and we're stout in there, so I feel like we're definitely going to stop the run this year." Smoot was asked what additions he expected to impact the area and cited defensive linemen Roy Robertson-Harris and Malcom Brown. "Roy, Malcolm, just to name a few … everybody honestly," he said. "We're coming to work every day and we're breathing down each other's throat, so it keeps us all on our A-game."
Smoot and defensive end Jihad Ward are reunited in Jacksonville after playing together at the University of Illinois in 2014-2015. "It has helped a lot, our camaraderie is already there, and it is just a step up now," Smoot said. "We're in the pros now, we're getting paid to do it now. But it does feel like college again, that team camaraderie, you can't replace that."
Smoot, entering his fifth NFL season, has made a living being Mr. Reliable – and Mr. Versatile. He played various spots around the defensive line in four previous seasons and expects to play multiple roles in the Jaguars' scheme this season. "I've done this my whole career, playing outside, inside, whatever I have to do to help the team win," he said. "Now, I am dropping weight and going to be on the outside more. It is just a plus; it is going to center my game all around.
Smoot is back around the same weight he weighed when drafted – noticeably thinner and quicker off the line. He made commitments to his body over the offseason that are now paying off. "I got a chef now," he said. "Keeping my diet the same, my body has received it very well. I came in drafted at 255, being down there is where I live."